Write using simple language
Use simple language as often as is possible. This makes your document accessible to people with cognitive impairments or learning disabilities.
Most people would prefer to read documents that use simple language as it means they can quickly understand the information.
If you need to use technical terms or acronyms, explain what the mean the first time you use them.
Keep your documents simple
- Use short sentences and paragraphs
- Use a sans serif font like Arial or Helvetica. Make the minimum size 12pt.
- Avoid using ‘all capitals’ text or italics
- Left align your text, don’t justify text
- Use centred text sparingly and only where you want it to stand out such as the main heading
- Avoid underlining unless for links
- Use single columns if possible, rather than a more complicated layout
- Use tables sparingly – only for data and avoid splitting or merging cells
- Don’t use colour alone to get across the meaning
- If you use images, think about how a user with visual impairment will be able to access the information
- by stating the same information in the text
- by giving the image an ‘alt text’ (alternative text) tag
- Avoid footnotes if possible
Structure the document
Use bullet points, numbered lists and subheads to break up the document.
Always mark up subheadings with styles – you can create a heirarchy of headings to structure your document, using heading 1, heading 2, heading 3 etc.
Ideally publish web pages rather than PDF files
The Government guidelines state that wherever possible, information should be published as an HTML web page, rather than as a PDF file.
The reason is that information is harder to find, use and maintain in a PDF file and is more difficult to make PDF files accessible. You can read here about why content should be published in HTML and not PDF
More complex documents
There’s lots of information about how to make more complex Microsoft Office documents accessible on the Accessible Digital Office Document (ADOD) Project website.